"Send out Your light and Your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling." Psalm 43:3

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Williams: The Breath of Jesus and the Sheer Thereness of the Christian Community

From Rowan Williams' Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief :
"According to John's Gospel, (Jesus) 'breathes into' his disciples his 'spirit', the breath of his life, so that they become equipped to do what he does and to speak with his voice to God and to the world.  By breathing into the disciples, he sets up a chain of human contact coming down to our own day, a chain of voices and faces in which Jesus is active.  The personal and direct contact with Jesus that is there before the crucifixion is renewed in the resurrection; and it is then taken to a new level as Jesus equips his friends to take responsibility for him and his Father, to be his body in the world.  It is the great new metaphor of the New Testament.  Contact with human beings who have received the breath of Jesus' life is contact with Jesus, as specific human beings pass on the mystery of God to each other across the ages.  To meet a Christian in whom this spirit is working is to be contemporary with Jesus.
Remember, Christianity is a contact before it is a message.  God is at work, God is communicating himself in flesh and blood, from the first moment Mary embraces her child.  God is at work in this presence even when Jesus is saying nothing in particular and doing nothing in particular.  And now God is at work in the continuing fellowship of flesh and blood human beings who have received Jesus' breath in themselves -- even at the (frequent) moments when they are not doing anything specifically Christlike, there is something to be touched and sensed in the sheer thereness of the Christian community.  If the risen Jesus is not an idea or an image but a living person, we meet him in the persons we have touched, the persons who, whatever their individual failings and fears, have been equipped to take responsibility for his tangible presence in the world."

Quite a daunting task, to "take responsibility for" God in the world; but I do believe that is an accurate description of the work of the Church, and of each individual Christian.  All we do has the potential to draw others closer to God or to push them further away.  This life in Christ is not a thing to be embarked upon lightly; thank God we have the "breath of Jesus" to equip and sustain us, and even to work within us and through us when we "are not doing anything specifically Christlike."

I love Rowan Williams.  I would love his writing in any event, but it's an added bonus that I can't help but read him without hearing his gently eloquent, sonorous voice, like he's sitting in my living room speaking with me.

Peace of Christ.

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